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Super-Charging your language learning with a Spaced Repetition System

Updated: Mar 12, 2022

Before we get going….. The idea of a Spaced Repetition System is not mine. I discovered it through the book Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner. If you would like more information about his Spaced Repetition System, I highly recommend both his book and his website.

What is a Spaced Repetition System? A spaced repetition system (SRS) is a method of memorising information using flashcards. The flashcards can be on paper or on an app. An SRS is sometimes called a spiral review system because the length of time between each time you review a word becomes gradually longer and longer.

Why is a Spaced Repetition System important? Learning a language means remembering and producing large amounts of information in real time. However, most learners do not have any systems to help them manage their new language. As a result, most learners struggle to remember vocabulary and grammar structures. An SRS helps you to manage your learning in an enjoyable way and, if done correctly, should significantly speed up your learning rate. In my opinion, an SRS is best used in conjunction with lots of extensive reading and listening.

I don’t have time to set up an SRS and use it every day! It is very true that an SRS can feel time-consuming. Personally, it took me several weeks to get around to making my SRS. If you are a particularly time-poor language learner, you may choose not to do this now. However, if you have plenty of time for learning English I would strongly encourage you to begin using an SRS. If you are working for an exam, I would say that an SRS is the best way for you to memorise the information that you need.

Computer-based or paper-based SRS? You can choose to make your SRS on an app such as Anki or Quizlet. There are several advantages to using an app; it’s quicker to make your flashcards on an app, you can’t lose them and you can practice them on your phone wherever you are.

You can also use paper flashcards and store them in a Leitner Box. A Leitner Box is a box with six or, ideally, seven compartments. Although it is generally slower to make the flashcards, it is also more memorable than making them at a computer. I use a Leitner Box, but both systems are fine. I bought my box on Amazon.

A basic guide to setting up your SRS

  1. Choose your system (paper or app)

  2. Add some vocabulary or language structures. You can begin with 10 - 20 flashcards. It's a good idea to draw or add a picture of the word or phrase you are trying to learn. If you are using Anki, you can also add a pronunciation file.

  3. Test yourself. Any flashcards that you remember can be moved into the second compartment or level. Flashcards that you can’t remember stay at level one.

  4. Continue to add new language into level one. Continue reviewing the words you already have. As you get better at remembering them, move them into higher levels. You will be reviewing them less often. If you forget a card, it moves back to level one!

  5. Language to put into your SRS includes:

    1. new vocabulary and grammar structures

    2. corrections from your teacher

    3. interesting words and phrases you find

There is a very useful timetable for using an SRS on the Fluent Forever website. You can also search for Leitner Box Schedule on Google which will bring you lots of timetables you can use to keep you on track!

This blog post is taken from my Study Skills Workbook

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